Not only did Midwestern University dental student Farhan Momin earn an apron to compete on Season 9 of “MasterChef,” he also excelled in the season’s first “mystery box” challenge.
“He’s just getting started. I’ve got the next ‘MasterChef’ right there with me along this ride,” judge Aaron Sanchez said about Momin on Wednesday’s episode.
The two-hour episode began with Sanchez and fellow judges Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich handing out the remaining nine aprons to fill out the top 24 of the Fox network competition. To earn a spot, Momin made tandoori fried chicken on a buttermilk black pepper biscuit using his parents’ recipes.
“That is one of the best things I have ever tasted in this kitchen,” Sanchez said. “That chicken is moist, and none of the spices are competing with one another.”
Sanchez and Ramsay both picked Momin to be on their teams. This season, the three judges each mentor eight contestants throughout the competition. Momin said he chose Sanchez as his mentor because “we both bonded over the immigrant story. What he’s done for Mexican food is what I want to do for Indian food.”
While Momin snagged an apron on Wednesday’s episode, fashion model Nik Stewart did not. The Uptown resident made Cayman-style lobster with turmeric dill rice. Ramsay said the dish needed a broth, and Stewart was among the 19 home cooks who didn’t make the top 24.
The second half of Wednesday’s episode was devoted to the first “mystery box” challenge. The 24 contestants had to cook with a designated ingredient from their home state. Momin, who grew up in Georgia and now lives in Downers Grove, got walleye, presumably because of the suburb’s proximity to Lake Michigan.
Momin landed in the top 3 with his peppercorn-crusted walleye with home-style potatoes and coconut moilee sauce.
“Fish, stunning. You know, it’s got that heat. It’s moist. It’s crispy. Sauce, delicious, and I love those potatoes, could be a little bit crispier,” Ramsay said. “But, here’s the thing, you’ve got such control over your cooking, but also you’ve got that level of finesse as well. You know your spice. You are an original spice boy.”
The dish made by the other Chicago-area contestant, sales manager Julia Danno, was not shown. Neither had to cook in the elimination round.
Contestants Sal Maida and Sid Hoeltzell were sent home. Twenty-two home cooks remain on “MasterChef,” which airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. The show winner is slated to receive $250,000.